There are a few skincare products that are essential throughout your life-think a really good moisturizer, or a gentle cleanser that won’t dry out skin. But certain ingredients are more important than others, especially when your skin is undergoing big changes as you age (hello, fine lines, dark spots, and a loss of elasticity). Below, we polled dermatologists to find out the most important skincare products to have in your arsenal in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond.
In a few decades, you’ll think back longingly on your 20-year-old collagen. “Right now, your skin looks bright, bouncy, and plump,” says Debra Jaliman, MD, New York City dermatologist, adding that this is the time to establish a skincare routine focused on cleansing, exfoliating, toning, and moisturizing. “The earlier this routine is started, the better off you will be in terms of preventing wrinkles.”
Since you probably don’t have too many fine lines at this age, “the focus of your skincare should be protection,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. That’s because up until you hit 30, skin cell turnover and skin’s ability to heal still function optimally, he explains. Making sure to use sunscreen every day (more on that later) will pay off in the long run.
“Niacinamide stimulates fibroblasts that make collagen, so it helps with fine lines,” says Dr. Jaliman. Plus, the ingredient (also known as vitamin B3) can even out skin tone, improve the appearance of enlarged pores, and brighten dull skin.
To start incorporating niacinamide into your routine, Dr. Jaliman recommends InstaNatural 5% Niacinamide Serum, telling us it’s “a good one to use at any age,” but especially in your 20s when it can prevent early signs of aging from worsening. “Besides the niacinamide, it has other beneficial ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, rosemary extract, and aloe,” she says. The fact that it rings in under $15 doesn’t hurt, either.
Many people in their 20s are more focused on preventing breakouts than fine lines—which is understandable, since “hormone levels at this age go up and down, and acne may be a result,” says Dr. Jaliman.
To keep breakouts at bay, reach for products that contain salicylic acid; this beta hydroxy acid can help speed up cell turnover to fight acne at the source. “Many people [in their 20s] still suffer from oily skin, so using a salicylic acid-based cleanser may be useful,” says Dr. Zeichner. Our pick: CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser, which will clear pores without being too drying.